Unite, Heal, and Reform

by Chris Laursen and Jason Frerichs

Party Unity doesn’t just mean that Bernie and Hillary supporters put aside their differences and work together to defeat Trump.  It also means that we welcome back those who have left the party with open arms.  We welcome them back without judgment and take the time to really listen to them.  That is what I am doing with my colleague Chris Laursen.  Chris was the state coordinator for the Jill Stein 2016.  I am the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party Progressive Caucus and a member of the State Central Committee.   Chris is someone that I have previously butted heads with.  That said, we have also successfully worked together in the past.  We were Bernie delegates together and Chris was one of our national delegates.  The night before the state convention there was an IDP Hall of Fame Dinner.  Chris and I coordinated a Hall of Infamy Banquet for Bernie delegates at the Hessen Haus in Des Moines.  We even tried to get a keynote speaker.  We invited Andrew Alemao, who threw tomatoes at Donald Trump during an Iowa City rally.

Passionate people sometimes disagree.  Sometimes we disagree forcefully.  We have to be able to forgive each other and move past it.  If we are truly going to be a big tent party, we have to welcome everyone with open arms.  If someone left but now wants to come back, we welcome them back.  We don’t judge that person or expect them to “fall in line.”  People who left did so for very good reasons.  They feel left out of the process.  They feel silenced and feel like they don’t have a some or a voice in the Democratic Party.  It is our job to offer them a home and to give them a voice.  We need to listen to the reasons for why they might have left the Democratic Party.  Chris and I believe that the way forward is progressive populism.  We believe that we must accept nothing less than the best government possible.  We believe that the Democratic Party must immediately change course and listen to the grassroots.  We believe that we must reject being a party of the donor class and return to our FDR roots.  We believe a 21st century New Deal is the way forward.

I appreciate Jason’s offer to co-author an article with me after learning my intentions to return to the Democrats. We have clashed before but we know the time for this great progressive populist movement to come back together is now. I have struggled with the decision to come back to the Democratic Party for months. I am coming back to fight for progressive values because the power structure to make advancements within this political system lies within this party. I am coming back because I am exploring the possibility of running for our state legislature and the Democratic Party offers the best vehicle for electoral success.

More importantly, I am coming back to support people like Jason in the Iowa Democratic Party and our allies on the State Central Committee who want to reform the party and truly make it a party for the people. I am also coming back to help defeat Republicans who are attacking every progressive improvement that we have made in this country. I slammed the door when I left the party after Philadelphia and I wanted to kick the door down as I came back in. But I realized my message would be lost on those who have been at the receiving end of the bluntness of my words. I am working on that. This is nothing personal against anyone. My message is to all of us. My message is very simple. There are deep ideological divides within the party and its outskirts that need to be set aside for now. We can pick up that conversation during the next primary and trust me we will. Nevertheless, we all share the common goal of defeating Republicans with their greed driven agenda. As Jason mentioned, I supported Jill Stein. I have no regrets and I make no apologies for my decision. I represent a significant number of progressives who are more candidate driven rather than party driven. Our love is not unconditional, it is earned. We bounced and we can bounce again. I will continue to support my Green brothers and sisters. Case in point, I openly support Green Party candidate, Daniel Clark, in his bid to remove Dave Loebsack as Iowa’s District Two U.S. House Representative. 447 power brokers/DNC members will decide the fate of national party leadership late next month and there is nothing we can do about it.

The Iowa Democratic Party State Central Committee has elected party leadership for our state this month. It has been decided. I sincerely hope that Derek Eadon, the newly elected IDP chairman, holds true to his promise to make the party more inclusive to the people that it has alienated. He is correct that the IDP needs to listen to us too. The Democratic Party ignores us at their own peril. Listening to us includes giving support and IDP money to Dem candidates who are not members of the pay to play political system. It also includes developing an effective strategy to deliver a TRUE populist message to energize the youth vote, win back rural Iowa, win back no-party moderates. Leaders who do not want to solve the underlying problems that face the party only make it harder for anyone who wants to deal with it. There are many among us who do not want to stand in a big tent full of double talk.

I look forward to working with Jason and other progressives in the party again. I wholeheartedly offer my service back to the Democratic Party in whatever capacity that might entail that doesn’t curtail my ethics. I appeal to my friends and allies who have left the party or who are completely disengaged at this point to join me. Our fight is here. Join the fight, whether you are a card carrying Democrat, Green or you have simply thrown your card away. We need to help the Democratic Party regardless of our reservations because we are staring down the barrel of a loaded lunatic POTUS and a Republican-dominated legislative body at both federal and state levels. Jason and I agree that we are all in this together despite our labels. We hope that our reconciliation and words here inspire others to sit down their differences for now and stand as one. We are going to reform the Democratic Party with time and pressure. We know it’s going to take some time and we will help bring the pressure. Change begins here, now, with us.

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About Jason Frerichs

Chair of the Iowa Democratic Party Progressive Caucus